Vicky Phelan tells Government 'allow me die with dignity'

Vicky Phelan tells Government 'allow me die with dignity'

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan has called on the Government and all TDs to “allow me die with dignity” and back a new bill that would allow terminally-ill people to end their own lives.

Ms Phelan is making an impassioned plea as the Dáil is set to debate the controversial issue next week. There are increasing signs that a free vote may be granted.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, she confirmed she is supporting the new bill being introduced by Solidarity People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny next Tuesday.

“For those people who are opposed to assisted dying, I would ask them to put yourselves in my shoes, and imagine what it is like to be me, for even one minute, and how frightening it is to know that I will most likely die in pain,” she said.

“All I am asking is to be allowed to go gently when my pain starts to become unmanageable.

I do not want to die, but I am going to die. Allow me to die with dignity, for my sake, and for my young children's sake.

Four countries in the EU have provisions for assisted dying, and the strong backing of Ms Phelan is being seen as very important in progressing the issue.

“I am supporting the Dying with Dignity Bill that Gino Kenny TD is introducing to the Dáil next week because I believe the time is right to have a debate on the issue of dying with dignity,” she said.

“We voted overwhelmingly in 2018 in favour of repealing the 8th amendment to remove the constitutional ban on abortion.

"I am hoping that the people of Ireland, and the 160 TDs who serve us, will support this bill and allow people like me, who are terminally ill, to end my life peacefully when the time comes.”

Former minister John Halligan, who introduced a previous incarnation of the bill in the wake of Marie Fleming’s landmark Supreme Court case, has said that the will of the Irish people should be heard.

“The Irish people have repeatedly indicated in opinion polls their support for such a bill,” he said. "This would be a major advancement for the social fabric of the country, were this to get through.

“At the least, it would be important to get it into the committee for debate so all the angles can be teased out.” 

There have been calls from within the Government parties for a free vote to be allowed, given that this is seen as a matter of conscience.

Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne said that in this context, a free vote would be appropriate.

Mr Kenny has argued that his bill would only make the provision of assisted dying for people who are terminally ill.

“This bill would be very restrictive, and nobody would be under any obligation to go this route," he said. 

The reality is that palliative care only goes so far, and some people will have a painful end.

Under the bill, those who seek to do this must be in a position where they cannot recover from their illness.

Two medical practitioners, including one independent doctor, must agree that the person meets the criteria.

Then when the approval is given, a cooling-off period of 14 days begins in case the person changes their mind.

“There is oversight all the time,” said Mr Kenny. "This is for a small number of people in very limited circumstances."

However, there is strong opposition to the bill from some quarters.

Professor Des O'Neill, a specialist in geriatric and stroke medicine, The Mick Clifford Podcastspoke to this week on why he opposes assisted dying.

“I think it is important that the medical profession and nurses and those involved in advocacy come out and say: ‘Hold on a minute, killing people or death or suicide is not a positive, caring supportive way’," he said.

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